To My Republican Friends
- "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Brownowski
There was a wonderful series on PBS a long time ago that had a tremendous impact on me, "The Ascent of Man." In the episode titled "Knowledge or Certainty", the author, Jacob Bronowski, goes to Auschwitz. Walking out into a shallow pond, he bends down, picks up a handful of mud, and says,
"..Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is hoped. Every judgement in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know, although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.'
...We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people."
Why do I quote this here? First - I am not implying that George Bush or the Republican party are Nazis. However, Bush, those in his administration, and his closest advisers (people like Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh) speak with certainty. They often point out problems and offer solutions that seem like common sense. They are masters of using personal stories that resonate, thus creating general cases out of particular instances. While this makes for compelling, convincing cases, it is dangerous, for very little is so simple and so certain.
Many good people support George Bush. It is the very decency of many of these people and their sense of justice and fair play that the Republican party has used to attract them. There is a trust given based partly on the sense that the United States is the best country in the world. But this trust should be based on knowledge, and knowledge based on facts, and facts based on observation. There is much going on in the United States that hides facts and makes available only portions of the truth. As Blake said, "The truth told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent."
Remember that we are the government. By electing a government, we not only influence our own lives, we influence the lives of people all around the world. The current administration believes we influence the world best by using our military might; this is the policy of preemptive strikes. But is that a sound policy?
What was our reaction when the terrorists flew the planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and forced the crash of another in Pennsylvania? We were justifiably angry. Many people wanted revenge. Does it not then make sense that if we wage war around the world that people in the countries we invade are going to feel the same? And will other countries not also become afraid that they will be invaded? Is this the way to peace and security?
I hope that what you find here challenges your beliefs and also gives you the opportunity to gather information that you may have perhaps missed in the popular media. Repeating Cromwell: I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.